Prentis Robinson rarely went a day without using Facebook Live — his favorite way of broadcasting his music, his personal vendettas and, authorities said, his suspicions about who in the town was dealing drugs.
On Monday, he was live-streaming video on Facebook as usual, recording himself with a selfie stick, wearing one of the straw cowboy hats he often donned in videos. He talked about how his phone was stolen as he walked around Wingate, N.C., the town southeast of Charlotte where he lived. He stopped by police headquarters to check in with Chief Donnie Gay.
“Bring his phone back so he can get on with his way, today,” Gay said in front of Robinson’s camera, according to video, part of which was posted by the Charlotte Observer.
Robinson left and kept walking.
Moments later, Robinson’s Facebook Live stream showed his horrifying death, in real time.
It happened about 5½ minutes into the video, when Robinson was approached by a man holding a long black object.
He jumped, suddenly startled, and informed the person off screen that he was recording.
“You on live,” he said, pivoting the camera. “You on live.”
The camera fell, landing face up. The rest of Robinson’s final video showed treetops, the sky and a brief flash of the fleeing suspect.
The 55-year-old was found with several gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Late Monday, police identified the suspected gunman as Douglas Cleveland Colson, 60.
Police had interviewed Colson on Monday, shortly after the shooting, but he wasn’t arrested, the Observer reported. But authorities got more information later in the day and obtained arrest warrants, the newspaper said.
Colson turned himself in to police on Tuesday morning and has been charged with first-degree murder, according to CBS affiliate WBTV.
The two men had a history.
Last week, Colson was the subject of a profanity- and insult-filled Facebook Live tirade Robinson made.
In the post, which still remained on Robinson’s page Tuesday, he accused Colson of selling drugs in Wingate, and “always [snitching] on the little young boys and get them [jail] time and stuff.”
Robinson and Colson had apparently known each other for decades, according to the video, and Robinson said that as a teenager, he had dated the woman Colson later married.
“Doug, all I say to you is, ‘Die and go to hell,’ ” Robinson said in the video. “You gonna burn in hell. You burning so bad, inside your skin is turning darker every year.”
Police have not said what they think led up to Robinson’s death or whether that video was a factor. A dispatcher reached at a number for the Wingate Police Department on Tuesday told The Washington Post that no one was immediately available to comment.
Investigators were expected to release more information later Tuesday, the dispatcher said.
Herbert Jordan, a friend of Robinson’s, was watching the Facebook Live stream when the shooting happened. He said he dropped his phone, stunned.
When he picked it up, he played the video again and again, taking images of the suspect, which he later posted, hoping to find his friend’s killer.
Jordan had recently moved to nearby Charlotte, and knew that Robinson was good for an uncensored airing of happenings and gossip in the small, tightknit community.
“It’s one of those towns where, when you’re in traffic, you know everybody in every car that drives by,” Jordan said. And Robinson “would go live on Facebook every morning like he was the news.”
He was always good for laughs, both in person and on video, Jordan said, and he was so talented, he could make up funny songs on the spot about “things that was right there in front of him.”
Robinson knew just about everyone in the community. He was born there, spent a few years living in Atlanta, then returned to Wingate to care for his ailing mother.
But Robinson didn’t shy away from talking about the people he thought were harming his community — such as drug dealers. The police, who he said weren’t doing enough to clean up the streets, were another target.
Jordan said that sometimes, during diatribes in which Robinson named names, friends and family members would post warnings:
“People on the posts would comment and say, ‘Somebody is going to kill you,’ ” Jordan said.
Gay, the police chief, confirmed to Fox 46 in Charlotte that Robinson had long been identifying suspected drug dealers during some of his Facebook Live streams.
The chief said he had “always suspected [Robinson] would’ve been beat up over it but never shot,” Fox 46 reporter David Sentendrey wrote in a tweet.
Jordan told The Post: “He saw himself as trying to clean up the neighborhood.”
“He had good intentions. But we kept trying to tell him that there was a flip side.”
This post has been updated.